Building walls to keep immigrants out is not Christian, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MEXICO (CNS) — As the plane carrying him back to Rome
from Mexico was flying over Texas, Pope Francis insisted building walls to keep
immigrants out of one’s country is un-Christian.

his customary in-flight news conference Feb. 17 after a six-day trip that ended
at the Mexico-U.S. border, Pope Francis was asked about his reaction to U.S.
presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal that the United States extend
the fence along the full length of the border and his comments to Fox Business
Network that Pope Francis is a politician and is being used by Mexicans.

defined the human person as ‘animal politicus’ — (so) at least I’m a human person”
in Trump’s eyes, Pope Francis said.

far as being ‘a pawn,'” the pope said, “that’s up to you, to the
people, to decide.”

one thing Pope Francis said he did know was that “a person who thinks only
of building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, isn’t

if a Catholic could vote for such a candidate in good conscience, the pope told
reporters: “I’m not going to get mixed up in that. I’ll just say, this man
is not Christian if he says this” about building walls.

Francis spent an hour answering questions, including about contraception and
the Zika virus, the recently publicized letters between St. John Paul II and a
woman philosopher, the sex abuse scandal and the reaction of Ukrainian
Catholics to the joint declaration he signed with Russian Orthodox Patriarch
Kirill of Moscow Feb. 12 in Cuba.

reporter asked why he had spent so much of the week denouncing the ills that
plague Mexico, but said nothing of the scandal of clerical sexual abuse and, in
particular, about the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Mexican founder
of the Legionaries of Christ. The priest lived a double life, fathering
children and sexually abusing numerous seminarians.

Francis’ comment on Father Maciel’s case was to praise retired Pope Benedict
XVI who, as a cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, tenaciously investigated the allegations and insisted “there was a
need to clean the church’s dirt, the garbage.”

Catholic Church has done much in the past dozen years to protect children, he
said, but the work is ongoing. In fact, he said, when he met with his
international Council of Cardinals before leaving on the Cuba-Mexico trip, it
was decided that the doctrinal congregation should have a new adjunct secretary
to oversee the Vatican investigations of abuse allegations against priests.

what should be done with a bishop who simply transfers an accused priest from
one parish to another, Pope Francis said such a bishop is “a man without a
conscience, and the best thing he can do is present his resignation. Is that

sexual abuse of a child by a priest is “a monstrosity,” he said.

Pope Francis was in Mexico, the BBC ran a story on previously unpublished
letters from St. John Paul II to Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a philosopher. Many
news reports on the letters raised doubts about the relationship being strictly
a platonic friendship.

Francis said the friendship was not a secret; “I already knew about this
friendship between St. John Paul II and this philosopher when I was in Buenos

man who does not know how to have a relationship of friendship with a woman —
I’m not talking about misogynists; those are sick — well, he’s a man who is
missing something,” the pope said.

his own experience, he said, it is important to get a woman’s opinion when
making decisions because “they look at things in a different way.”

for a priest or a pope, he said, “a friendship with a woman is not a sin,
it’s a friendship. A romantic relationship with a woman who is not your wife —
that is sin. Understand?

the pope is a man. The pope needs the input of women, too. And the pope, too,
has a heart that can have a healthy, holy friendship with a woman. There are
saint-friends — Francis and Clare, Teresa and John of the Cross — don’t be
frightened,” he told reporters.

Francis recognized that priests’ friendships with women are still suspect,
which is a shame, he said. “We have not understood the good that a woman can
do for the life of a priest and of the church in the sense of counsel, help,
healthy friendship.”

pope also was asked about an interview Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of
Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, gave Feb. 13 in
which he said Ukrainians felt “deep disappointment” over the joint

I read this, I was worried,” said the pope, who explained that he has
known and respected Archbishop Shevchuk for years.

archbishop’s criticism seemed “a bit strange,” he said, but when
people speak, their words must be read in the context of what they are living. The
Ukrainians have the experience of Russian aggression toward the Ukrainian
Catholic Church and Russian support for separatist fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
That experience cannot be ignored, he said.

can understand how people in that situation feel this way,” the pope said.
The archbishop’s right to express his opinion must be respected, he said, “especially
in this situation.”

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Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.


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